36.16 – James, Richard, and Thomas Chambers

“Here let him lie in his quiet grave while other men shall carry on the work in which he took a sincere and active interest. Here let him lie until the final hour shall come for the grave to give up its dead.”

Another stone on the back slope whose inhabitants played an important part in the history of Todmorden: the Chambers family.

James, Richard and Thomas were born to Jonas and Hannah (Holt) Chambers in the 1810s-1820s. Their careers overlapped at times, but took distinctive paths to those points:

JAMES became a bookbinder and, for reasons as yet undetermined, went to America to seek his fortune. He married Jane Ann Hanagriff, the daughter of a steamboat captain, in Missouri in 1846. They had four children before she died in 1860, and in 1861 James and his children returned to Todmorden. The children took turns living with various relatives and friends of the family, including Richard. James continued as a bookbinder and also became an integral part of Richard’s business, and also was one of the early supporters of Roomfield School and Baptist Chapel. In 1881 he can be found in the Todmorden Advertiser talking about his history going to the Sunday School, including the hazel stick of discipline, and mentioning that if he had been called to teach he’d have had a hard time of it because some of the boys were bigger than the teachers and you disciplined them at your peril! He died in 1885 and is the first of the three buried here; Jane Ann is mentioned as well on the stone.

RICHARD also went into the paper business…not binding books only, but printing. More specifically, he founded the Todmorden Advertiser (later Todmorden Advertiser & Hebden Bridge Newsletter) in 1853 from his printing shop at Salford, and together with James published the newspaper, the Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Historical Almanack, and many other items over his long career. You cannot throw a stick, or at least search for an issue of the newspaper for decades, without seeing his name. Richard, who never married and was for the last few decades of his life living with one or two of James’s daughters for support, died in 1903 at the impressive age of 86. There is so much more that could be written about him, I have no doubt, but for now we’ll leave it at that (another researcher might be able to find all sorts of exciting things…but I’m supposed to be working on a new transcript, shhh)

Thomas Chambers, from the 1906 Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Historical Almanack

THOMAS was the brother who made the Almanack on his death in 1905, and who at least on the census did not appear to be solely in the family trade – he was a cotton mill operative and overseer for most of his life. However, his obituary in the Almanack mentions that he wrote many articles for the newspaper over several decades, acted as its editor for some time, and speaks of him as an interesting and active man whose late life deafness made everyone’s life less richer for the constraints it placed on his ability to communicate. It also – in the manner of all good obituaries – refers delicately to something of a volatile temper and an impatience with foolishness, but also of a generosity of spirit and willingness to teach anyone who he thought had promise but was otherwise lacking resources or opportunities. This family were clearly an intelligent and literate bunch. The Almanack’s obituary of him ends with the quote at the beginning of this post, and it certainly feels like a sentiment relevant to FOCCT’s interests.


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